5 The Hours
It seems safe to assume that this made the bestseller list thanks to the 2002 release of the movie by the same name starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. If you’re going to really get this book, then you have to have at least minimal familiarity with Virginia’s Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Don’t worry, we hadn’t read it either. The Hours is taken from Woolf’s working title for Mrs. Dalloway, which describes a single day in the life of a high-society woman in post WWI England. Now we’ll return to The Hours, which follows a single day in the lives of three separate women. The first is Virginia Woolf herself. The second is Laura Brown, a young mother who is reading Mrs. Dalloway and the last is Clarissa Vaughan at the end of the 20th century, whose life most closely mirrors Clarissa Dalloway’s. This book isn’t for everyone. It’s heavy, depressing and primarily focused on the inner lives of its characters rather than on changes in plot. But it’s beautiful, graceful and thought-provoking(if you’re into that sort of thing).
4 The Da Vinci Code
Whether you see this as an accusation of conspiracy within the Roman Catholic Church, a Rubik’s cube in novel form, or an updated Indiana Jones, you could be right. But then again, you could be wrong. It’s impossible to know when there are so many secrets being carefully hidden from you by generations of geniuses. At least, that is the premise of the Da Vinci code. Every generation a secret society passes down a secret regarding Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail and they’ve left clues and symbols throughout the art world (particularly Leonardo Da Vinci). When an art historian is murdered, it’s up to the dashing-in-tweed religious symbologist Robert Langdon to find them. And so while the mystery unfolds we’re left wondering about the biggest question of all: What the hell is a religious symbologist?
3 Life of Pi
This may be one of the weirder books we’ve read in a long time. It tells the story of a young boy stranded on a lifeboat for 227 with a number of zoo animals, including a Bengal Tiger. The boy, Pi, begins by telling us why his family is leaving India with a bunch of zoo animals, including describing how he decided to become Hindu, Muslim and Christian all at the same time, as only a kid can. After his rescue, Pi tells the story of how the other animals eventually died and he was left alone with the tiger and the need to establish a relationship that wouldn’t get him eaten. Whether this story is related to his philosophizing about God is never made apparent and depends on how many layers of meaning you want to go for as you read. Just beware before you convince yourself that you understand the metaphors: there’s a surprise twist coming up towards the end.
2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
We think we can safely say that this is the worst of the Harry Potter books. Voldemort has returned and the tension in the wizarding world is growing, but most importantly Harry has reached a stage of teenage angst that we all felt but which few of us asked millions of readers to share with us. Granted, he may have a little bit more excuse since he’s an orphan being chased by a powerful villain while being gossiped about in the tabloids, but it still just reads like self-righteous adolescence. It may be excruciating but that’s what it felt like when we were all fifteen so we give it major points for accuracy. In the meantime, we still get to hang out at Hogwarts and so it’s all worth it.
1 The King of Torts
Unlike last year’s leading Grisham novel, this one has the main lawyer character acting as a lawyer. In fact, it is the development of his law career that is the primary plotline. Although the specific cases he’s working are relevant and would seem very important if we didn’t have the reader’s bird’s eye view, their subject matter could easily be changed and we would never know the difference. Sure there’s a hint of murder and conspiracy but they just serve to bring our hero to the question of whether he will sell out for the big money of tort law or hold onto his principles for the long haul. If you’re looking for suspense and tons of action, this may not be the Grisham novel for you. But if you’re a loyal John Grisham fan and want to know a little something about what the king of legal thrillers actually thinks about lawyers in the U.S. then this is a great read.
So what did we miss?